Barring any last minute intervention by the federal government, members of the organised labour under the umbrella of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress would go ahead with their two-day national protest beginning from tomorrow.
This was just as human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana has call on the federal government to respect the democratic wishes of Nigerian workers to identify with the striking university lecturers.
THISDAY gathered from sources in the labour movement that they have issued mobilisation letters to all their affiliates and allies across the country to commence the protest at all the state capitals and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
The Senior Staff Union of Nigerian, (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and Allied Institutions (NASU) have mobilised their members to team up with NLC and other allies to ensure the success of the nationwide protest.
Both unions at a joint press conference in Abuja at the weekend said their members would fully take part in the nationwide solidarity protest being organised by the NLC and the TUC in support of the university workers who have been on strike for over five months over the non-implementation of agreement with federal government.
The National President of SSANU, Mr. Mohammed Haruna Ibrahim who spoke at a media briefing held at the union’s new headquarter building in Abuja, said their members have been fully mobilised for the protest.
On the fear expressed by the government that the protest might be hijacked by politicians and hoodlums, he said, “for any government to imagine that a protest organised by university-based unions under the umbrella of the NLC will be hijacked by hoodlums or political parties is unbelievable.”
Ibrahim said the unions have decided to be on their uniforms during the protest to avoid possible infiltration by persons with negative plans.
He said all the government needs to do is to deploy security agents to protect the protesters and ensure that it maintains peace
“We are all affiliates to the NLC and all our members pay check-off dues, so we have every right to seek the support of the NLC and other affiliates to help achieve demand,” he added.
According to SSANU President, the unions sought the intervention of the NLC when the dispute was becoming intractable.
Similarly, another union, the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) has expressed its readiness to participate in solidarity protest against the continued closure of Nation’s tertiary institutions scheduled for 26 and 27 July.
In a letter written to all its branches nationwide, signed by its General Secretary, Mr. Joe Ajaero, the union urged the branches to mobilise members to join the national protest jointly led by NLC and TUC.
NLC had at its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held in Abuja, on June 30, threatened to embark on a two-day nationwide protest to compel, “the federal government to conclude the ongoing negotiation with trade unions in Nigeria’s universities.”
In a mobilisation letter sent to all the state branches of NLC and the Federal Capital Territory FCT, the congress directed them to activate all the mechanisms to implement the decision of NEC to organise a national protest beginning from July 26 to July 27.
Among the resolutions reached at the NEC meeting were the condemnation of the alleged unserious attitude of government to negotiations as well the activation of, “no work-no pay,” policy on striking university workers.
The NEC described the stoppage of salaries of striking university workers as draconian.
The NEC went on to resolve to organise a one-day solidarity action in support of Congress affiliates in the education sector.
In a statement issued yesterday by NLC President, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, he said the decisions of the NEC have been activated accordingly with a circular to affiliates and state councils for compliance.
The NLC lamented the delay in resolving the dispute between the federal government and members of the ASUU and other non-teaching staff unions in universities despite the setting up high-powered negotiating team headed by the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Agboola Gambari for that purpose.
It also recalled that a tripartite plus meeting was convened by the federal government on May 12, 2022 at the instance of the organised labour and well-meaning Nigerians to resolve the crises in our tertiary institutions.
According to the NLC, negotiations were held and the meeting was adjourned for three weeks to allow the Prof. Nimi-Briggs Committee to turn in their report and also to allow the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to subject all the proposed university payment platforms to integrity test including IPPIS.
On the other hand, the federal government has been making frantic efforts to stave off the planned protest by workers.
It has pleaded with the NLC to cancel the planned protest over the prolonged ASUU and other university-based unions’ strike. It also urged the organised labour not to mobilise support for Labour Party as it would amount to a violation of the Trade Union Act.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige had made the appeal last Thursday at a meeting with the leadership of NLC in his office.
The Minister said he incorporated NLC into the tripartite conciliation going on in his Ministry, adding that being very much aware of efforts of the government to resolve the impasse, they cannot embark on any rally or protest.
A statement issued by the Head, Press and Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Olajide Oshundun, quoted Ngige as having told the labour leaders that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) mandated him to notify them of the serious security implications of the planned protest.
According to Ngige, a security report also sent to his office by the Department of State Services (DSS), strongly had warned against holding the protest.
The ministry had also said having rounded off its work, the Prof. Limi Briggs Commitee proposed 109 -185 percent increase in the university wage structure.
Falana: FG Should Respect Democratic Wishes of Nigerian Workers, Says Strike Constitutional
Meanwhile, Falana in a statement entitled, ‘The legality of the planned protest by NLC in solidarity with ASUU,’ issued yesterday contended that the fundamental right of the people of Nigeria to protest for and against the Government was upheld by the Court of Appeal in the celebrated case of the Inspector-General of Police v All Nigeria Peoples Party (2008) 12 WRN 65.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria argued that the proposed protest cannot be said to be illegal since it would be an expression of the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly of Nigerian workers guaranteed by sections 39 and 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and articles 39 and 40 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights Ratification and Enforcement Act Cap A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
Furthermore, Falana, who is the Interim Chair, Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), stated that since the protest by the NLC was just and legitimate the ASCAB has mobilised lawyers in the Federal Capital Territory and the 36 States of the Federation to provide legal services for the protesters.
The statement added: “A rally or placard-carrying demonstration has become a form of expression of views on current issues affecting government and the governed in a sovereign state. It is a trend recognised and deeply entrenched in the system of governance in civilised countries.
“It will not only be primitive but also retrogressive if Nigeria continues to require a pass to hold a rally. We must borrow a leaf from those who have trekked the rugged path of democracy and are now reaping the dividend of their experience.
“In line with the injunction of the Court of Appeal the National Assembly ensured that the right of Nigerian citizens to assemble and express themselves freely and peacefully has been complimented by the Police Establishment Act 2020. The Act has imposed a duty on the Nigeria Police Force to provide adequate security during meetings, rallies and processions convened by Nigerian citizens.
“Specifically, section 83(4) of the Act stipulates as follows: Where a person or organisation notifies the police of his or its intention to hold a public meeting, rally or procession on a public highway or such meetings in a place where the public has access to, the police officer responsible for the area where the meeting rally or procession will take place shall mobilise personnel to provide security cover for the meeting, rally or the procession.
“Having confirmed that the NLC has notified the Authorities of the Nigeria Police Force of the planned protest marches and rallies in strict compliance with the aforementioned provision of the Police Establishment Act, 2020, we call on the federal government to respect the democratic wishes of Nigerian workers to identify with the striking university lecturers.
“Since the protest by the NLC is just and legitimate the ASCAB has mobilised lawyers in the Federal Capital Territory and the 36 States of the Federation to provide legal services for the protesters.”